How To Improve Document Control on Construction Projects

February 22, 2022

The construction industry has long been plagued with poor document control. The first problem, of course, is that you have a lot of paperwork to deal with. You have:

  • Plans
  • Engineering reports
  • Subcontractor communications
  • Electrical information
  • Permits
  • RFIs
  • And everything in between!

It's little wonder that construction projects are often buried within stacks of documents--and even less surprising that documents are frequently lost or extremely time-consuming to find. In fact, 35% of construction professionals' time is spent hunting down project information, which means a serious loss in overall productivity. Non-optimal activities cost the industry more than $175 billion in labor costs in 2018 alone, a number that continues to rise. 

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to improve overall document control on your construction projects.

1. Take a Close Look at What Isn’t Working With Your Current System

Look through your existing document control system. If it relies on a stack of documents on a project manager's desk somewhere--and only that specific project manager has any idea at all of where any of those documents are--chances are, a good portion of your team has already identified some of the flaws in your system. Ask yourself:

  • What documents do you most struggle to find?
  • Can every member of the team access the documents they need in order to move forward with the next stage of the project at any given time? 
  • Do the members of your team frequently lose time looking for information that should be readily accessible?
  • Are there documents that can only be accessed by specific individuals within your construction team--but that should really be accessible to other team members?
  • Are RFIs getting lost in the shuffle or delayed due to challenges? 
  • Are your current sets actually current, with no RFI that you need to catch up?

In addition, carefully consider what is working with your current system so that you can carry those strategies over into a new system that is more effective--and less time-consuming. Furthermore, take a look at how your team is impacted by the need to constantly manage those documents and determine whether you need an outside solution that can help you manage your regular documents. 

2. Eliminate Paper Wherever You Can

The days of storing the majority of your project documentation in a filing cabinet are long gone. Many of today's construction projects, rather than being handled on paper, are handled through virtual communication and storage. Not only is using paper less environmentally friendly in general, it can mean a stack of physical documentation that you have to keep up with--and then figure out what to do with at the end of the project, including keeping specific documents that you or the client might need access to later. 

Instead, go to paperless communication and document creation when you can. It's considerably more convenient and overall more accessible to share a virtual document than a paper that someone has to make a physical copy of--and you'll find that it makes storage much simpler, as well. 

3. Get Rid of Systems That Aren’t Working for You

As a construction company, your needs are unique. You don't need a generic document management system that is geared toward other industries--those that may generate fewer documents, or that may have entirely different documentation needs than yours. You also do not need the same old systems that are no longer effective and functional for your company. Consider:

  • Are you still doing most of your communication through email, which can be slow, clunky, and hard to search for later?
  • Are you using outdated software or a filing system that doesn't keep all the documentation for a project together--or, worse, makes it difficult to find the project you're actually looking for?
  • Are your team members wasting time taking care of their own document storage needs, rather than focusing on the actual construction process?

If you have systems that simply aren't working for you, it's time to make the transition to something that does. Look for a platform geared toward the specific needs of construction workers: one that makes document control simple--and takes care of many of the details for you--so that your workers can focus on the construction process. 

4. Standardize Your Document Storage and Sharing Processes

In some construction companies, especially bigger companies, you may find that each project manager has a different strategy for document storage and communication. One uses an app. Another prefers email. A third might still be using a great deal of paper documentation, which means that you often have a long wait before you can get access to the information you need.

Create a company-wide standard that establishes:

  • Where you will store your documents.
  • Who is responsible for taking care of document storage needs. (Hint: It doesn't have to be your workers!)
  • How documents are organized, including naming conventions that will clearly identify which project they are for.
  • What platform is used for communication, including internal communication, supplier communication, and subcontractors.
  • A strategy for keeping up with the latest updates to drawings, change orders, and more. 

A standardized document storage and communication solution used across your company means that documentation is stored effectively, making it both easier to access and easier to handle document control.

5. Get Help When You Need It

Document control does not have to be the responsibility of your project managers or your other staff members--all of whom may have other things demanding their time and energy. Instead, consider the benefits of workforce load balancing as you turn your document control over to a document control service that will help take care of all those time-consuming tasks. 

6. Continue To Make Progress Over Time

Implementing a document control solution for your construction projects isn't a one-and-done proposition. Instead, it's likely one that you will continue to make improvements on over time. You may find that, as you become more accustomed to controlling your documents and organizing them efficiently, there are more solutions you want to integrate. By viewing document control as an ongoing project, you may find that you're better positioned to deal with those critical concerns. 

Are you ready to take control of your construction documentation? LinkedField can help. Contact us today to learn more about our document management solution and how we can streamline document storage, information sharing, and more.